Posts for: October, 2012
CAT scans or Computer Assisted Tomograph scans have been around for years. However, it is quickly becoming the new standard in dentistry. The reasons are clear both literally and figuratively, as they provide our office with millions of pictures so that we can combine them together to create 3-dimensional (3-D) images. Prior to this technology, we could only image the body in 2-dimensions with x-rays (radiographs) — a technology first developed by Roentgen.
One of the best features of CAT scans and CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) scanning is that they enable us to see and experience the body from the inside. Having this ability changes (and many times) improves upon the way we diagnose. Here's how they work in very simplistic terms. Picture your favorite multi-layered cake with each layer representing an image. A three-layer cake requires just three images. For us to build a 3-D image similar to the cake, we require millions of very thin layers (images) that we put together, one on top of another, until our results, one 3-D image. And by having so many thin layers, we are best able to diagnose. For example, in our cake analogy, it is easier to determine if the cake contains finely chopped nuts, berries or other ingredients when you cut numerous very thin slices of cake to examine versus having one large chunk of cake.
It is important to note that in our office we may not recommend using this technology in all cases, as it may not be necessary for your particular diagnosis and/or treatment. While the technology can prove invaluable, it is quite expensive and a simple 2-D x-ray may provide everything we need. However, some dental specialty areas where CAT scans are currently used include:
- Orthodontists and pediatric dentists
- Cosmetic dentists and tooth replacement specialists (prosthodontists)
- Oral surgeons
- Root canal specialists (endodontists)
- Gum specialist (periodontists)
To learn more about CAT scans and how they are used in the various specialty areas, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “CAT Scans in Dentistry.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions.
A pregnant woman has a lot to think about while preparing to welcome a new member of her family. It's important to think about her oral health as well. She is sharing her body with the developing infant, so problems with her health — including her dental health — can affect the baby. The following facts will help you understand the relationship between oral health and pregnancy.
- A baby's primary (baby) teeth begin to form during the sixth week of pregnancy. They begin to form their enamel (the hard outer layer of the teeth) and dentin layer (just under the enamel) at about the third or fourth month. The calcium, phosphorous, and protein that are needed for these structures must all be provided by the mother's diet.
- A good diet for a pregnant mother, in order to provide for both her needs and those of the fetus (the developing baby), includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables — including green leafy vegetables — proteins and dairy products. A doctor may also recommend iron and/or folic acid supplements.
- If the mother's diet does not provide enough calcium for the baby's bones and teeth, it will come from calcium stored in her bones — not from her teeth. The old idea that a mother's teeth lose calcium during pregnancy has been found to be a myth.
- Progesterone, a normal female hormone, is elevated during pregnancy. This hormone stimulates production of prostaglandins, substances that cause inflammation in gum tissues if the bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease are present. The resulting swelling, redness, and sensitive gum tissues, called pregnancy gingivitis, are common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
- The bacteria involved in periodontal disease can affect whole body conditions such as heart disease and strokes, diabetes, and respiratory diseases. The inflammation resulting from such bacteria can also cause premature delivery (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or low birth weight in the baby.
- Periodontal disease is also related to pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure, during pregnancy.
- Dental x-rays do not expose the mother to very high radiation, but in any case every precaution is taken to minimize exposure to the fetus. These include a leaded apron that shields the baby from exposure.
- Most drugs commonly used in dentistry, including local anesthetics, can safely be given to pregnant women without affecting the fetus. However, it is important to let your dentist know you are pregnant before embarking on any treatment to make sure anything that is done will be safe for the fetus and its developing teeth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about pregnancy and your oral health. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to serious infection and even loss of teeth; but it can easily be prevented. Here are seven things you can do to prevent gum disease — or stop it in its tracks if you already have it.
- Understand the causes of gum disease. Diseases of periodontal (from the root words meaning “around” and “tooth”) or gum tissues start with bacteria collecting on your teeth, in the areas where the teeth and gums meet. The bacteria, called plaque or biofilm, irritate the surrounding tissues and cause them to become inflamed and swollen, and to bleed easily on contact. This condition is called gingivitis.
- Brush correctly and effectively. Brushing twice a day is not just to polish your teeth to pearly whiteness. An important reason to brush is to remove the daily coating of plaque from your teeth. At your next dental appointment, ask me or our staff to show you the most effective way to brush.
- Floss every day. Daily flossing removes the plaque that settles in between your teeth, in places where your brush can't reach.
- Have regular professional cleanings. Our hygienist will remove plaque that you missed by brushing and flossing. This plaque hardens into a material called calculus or tartar. In a professional cleaning your hygienist uses special tools to scrape these materials away. The hygienist also measures the distances between your gums and teeth to make sure that inflamed gums have not separated from the teeth, forming pockets in which the bacteria continue to grow.
- Recognize the signs of developing gum disease. These signs include any of the following: gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss; bad breath; red or swollen gums; and sensitive teeth.
- Stop smoking. If you haven't stopped smoking for your heart or lungs, here is another reason to quit. Smokers are more likely to develop periodontal disease than nonsmokers. Smoking masks the effects of gum disease, so smokers are less likely to notice the symptoms, allowing the disease to progress to a greater degree before they seek help.
- See our office right away if your teeth become loose or your gums become red and swollen. If inflamed gum tissues do not heal, the disease continues to progress. The tissues that attach your teeth to your bone, called ligaments, are lost as pockets deepen as the infection advances. Your gums may also become red, swollen, and painful. As the infection gets worse it eats away the bone around your teeth, causing the teeth to loosen and fall out.
So start with prevention and stop periodontal disease in its early stages.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”